A William Robinson Gravetye Charity Project
2019 will be the centenary of the 1919 Forestry Act, which, following the end of the First World War began 100 years of woodland planting, landscape debate and innovation including the creation of the Forestry Commission. In celebrating this centenary, the Forestry Commission’s intention was to inspire a greater appreciation of forests, and, in particular, raise awareness of the threats of disease and climate change. The Trustees of the William Robinson Gravetye Charity believed we could best celebrate our close relationship with the Forestry Commission in its centenary year by recognising the achievement of the last 100 years against a backdrop of new ideas exploring how we might build resilient landscapes for another 100 years. More people visit a forest than the seaside, and roughly half of all forest visits in England are to a Forestry Commission Forest – they are a vital social and ecological asset.
The charity decided that by commissioning a garden for the 21st century we could explore this theme, remain true to the principles Robinson promoted and our charitable aims, and celebrate the restoration of the beautiful house and garden at Gravetye Manor. As climate change becomes more complex and challenging the countryside is in danger of losing much loved native species of trees, and both flora and fauna which depend on them for their habitat. The show garden was christened ‘The Resilience Garden’ because it looked ahead to the biggest challenges facing our forests in the future, exploring how they can be made resilient to a changing climate and the increasing threats of pests and diseases. It was unveiled at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 where it was a great success with both the RHS judges, and the general public. The garden was awarded a Gold Medal and Best Construction Award for a Show Garden, and attracted excellent media coverage.
The show garden was enclosed by a reclaimed silage clamp and featured an outdoor studio/workshop created from a repurposed grain silo
intended to show where the designer could have worked while creating several habitats mimicking the potential effects of climate change, including drier summers and wetter winters. Just as William Robinson did, exotic species were shown growing alongside natives, so that the designer could explore those which have the potential to fill threatened ecologies, and consider alternatives to disease affected species for future forests, landscapes and gardens. With regard to his own garden, Robinson requested in his will that: ‘the trees, woods and landscapes shall be the only teachers’. Reflecting these words, the Trustees hope that building the show garden would help to focus public attention on the challenges we might all face.
The 2019 ‘Resilience Garden’ at the Chelsea Flower Show was a project initiated by the William Robinson Gravetye Charity. The show garden was designed by Sarah Eberle, and built and planted by Crocus. Supporters of the venture included Gravetye Manor Hotel, the neighbouring Kingscote Estate, Forestry Commission England, the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) as well as the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, Forestry Commission Scotland, and the Welsh and Scottish Governments. The William Robinson Gravetye Charity also worked in partnership with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), Observatree and Action Oak.
Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)